Be Proud of Your Mouth!

On World Oral Health Day 2021, the DHAA is calling on governments, health professionals and service providers to end their neglect to the oral health of all Australians.

Many common oral diseases including tooth decay, gum diseases, and oral cancers, are preventable. Evidence links oral diseases to to cardiovascular disease,i pulmonary disease,i diabetes ii and dementia. iii Oral diseases can also be associated with poor nutritional status and affect quality of life iv through oral pain, discomfort, speech impairment, and social withdrawal. v vi Specifically, residents in aged care are at higher risk for aspiration pneumonia because of bad oral health. In severe cases, this necessitates acute hospital care and may even lead to death.

Historically, dentistry adopts a treatment dominated, invasive and high-tech approach to care that is often expensive. Nearly one in five people delayed or avoided seeing a dental practitioner due to cost. The number is five times higher than the number of people who failed to see a General Practitioner. vii DHAA Oral Health Promotion and Public Health Committee Chair Mr Ian Epondulan said a focus on preventive care and a minimal intervention approach is needed to reduce the burden on the historical treatment paradigm that has shown to be ineffective. viii

Given the increasing economic and morbidity costs of oral diseases and the links to general health, Mr Epondulan believes oral health professionals and early intervention for oral diseases can have a significant positive impact on the quality of life of patients, while diminishing the economic burden for society. ix

“Governments, health professionals, and service providers often treat oral health separately from all other health services in terms of funding, service infrastructure and planning, despite the evidence that oral health is an integral element of overall health” said DHAA President Ms Cheryl Dey. “This separation has led to significant health, social and economic ramifications.” “It is time for all of us to recognise and prioritise oral health within the health system, as we have neglected it for too long and there is a lot of catching up to do.”

Dental hygienists, oral health therapists and dental therapists are an under-utilised, yet powerful workforce that could improve the current undesirable situation. These oral health professionals have a preventative and health-promotion focus, and should be a key driving force to improve the health status for all Australians.

Media Contact:

 Bill Suen   0412 831 669

i Manger D, Walshaw M, Fitzgerald et al, Evidence summary: the relationship between oral health and pulmonary disease, British Dental Journal, 2017, 222(7) 527-533
ii D’Aiuto F, Gable D, Syed Z et al, Evidence summary: the relationship between oral health and diabetes, British Dental Journal, 2017, 222(12) 944-948
iiiDaly B, Thompsell A, Sharpling J et al, Evidence summary: the relationship between oral health and dementia, British Dental Journal, 2017, 1-8
ivHugo C, Cockburn N, Ford P et al, Poor nutritional status is associated with worse oral health and poorer quality of life in aged care residents, The Journal of Nursing Home Research Sciences, 2016 (2) 1-5
vCouncil of Australian Governments Health Council, Healthy Mouths, Healthy Lives: Australia’s National Oral Health Plan 2015–2024. Adelaide: South Australian Dental Service
viNational Advisory Council on Dental Health, Report of the National Advisory Council on Dental Health 2012, Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing
viiAustralian Bureau of Statistics 4839.0 - Patient Experiences in Australia: Summary of Findings, 2017-18
viiiWatt R, Daly B, Allison P et al, Ending the neglect of global oral health: time for radical action, The Lancet, 2019 (394) 261-272
xi Reference: Borgnakke, W. (2015). Does Treatment of Periodontal Disease Influence Systemic Disease? Dental Clinics of North America. 59 (4) 885–917. DOI: